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More goodbyes

Veliko Tarnovo


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This morning I booked my train ticket to Bucharest! I leave from the station at Gorna Oriyahovitsa at 12.03 tomorrow, so I'll have to get a taxi there at about 11.15. While I was in town I also changed some leva into Romanian lei and went into my now ex-workplace to book my hostels and print out the booking confirmations, my flight e-ticket and boarding pass.

After that I had a late lunch at Hadji Nikoli with my ex-colleague M and her daughter B - I had my beloved tarator for the last time before I leave Bulgaria, plus a delicious courgette, white cheese, yellow cheese and egg mixture, and for pudding an ice parfait with crushed caramelised hazelnuts. M insisted on paying for my meal at the end - thank you M! I was sad to say goodbye at the end; M was a fantastic colleague and friend, the best you could hope to wish for, and B is lovely too.

On my return from Hadji Nikoli I started cleaning, tidying and packing in earnest. In the evening I went out for a few drinks with N - I really wanted to go to Melodie Bar (my old favourite) but it turned out that it's closed until 1st August, so we went round the corner to Sammy's instead and sat in their outdoor section. That was a shame about Melodie Bar; I really fancied my usual order of two pina coladas to start and later on a kahlua on ice. Oh well, Sammy's is a good place too, although their pina coladas aren't quite at the same standard as at Melodie. It was lovely to see N, though again, it was sad to say goodbye.

To finish off my day I went round to F's for a hot drink. It was great fun chatting, as always, but tinged with bitterweetness because I knew that after all the times I've done this since September, this would be the last.

Posted by 3Traveller 00:17 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged bulgaria veliko_tarnovo han_hadji_nikoli bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Sisters depart

Veliko Tarnovo


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A lie-in was followed by lunch at Taverna, a restaurant only round the corner from my flat. I suggested this place because I know it does good chicken kavarma (chicken and vegetable stew cooked and served in a clay pot) and tarator and the décor is atmospheric.

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After lunch we went to the Han Hadji Nikoli museum and art gallery. At the moment it has two temporary exhibitions on loan from the Numismatic Museum in Ruse; one containing mainly Scythian coins and one of archaeological items from Ancient Greece and Rome. Highlights were the Roman glass cornucopia, a decree (written at Serdica - Roman Sofia - on 10th June, 311 AD) from Emperor Licinius regarding the privileges of soldiers and veterans, a Ancient Greek pot and some objects made from beaten gold such as jewellery, shield centres and an axe. There was also an exhibition of modern icons and some other paintings by Bulgarian artists.

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The building was very pleasant to look round, too; I'd been to the restaurant before, but not around the rest of it. We climbed various sets of stairs and walked along pillared walkways which overlooked the courtyard, the tiled roofs of nearby buildings and (once we reached the third floor) another part of Veliko Tarnovo on a hill in the distance.

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We had hoped to have to time to visit the fruit & vegetable market and also walk down to the River Yantra, but unfortunately we didn't. We did however go into a supermarket so that Emma and Kate could look round and pick up one or two things for themselves, family members and friends. The sun was out again when we left, so on our way back to my flat, we stopped at one or two lookout points for photos.

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Soon after we got back we had some of my colleagues round for birthday cake and some tea or coffee. Emma and Kate packed their stuff and eventually they had to depart. I walked to the ETAP bus station to see them off on their journey back to Sofia. Ahead of them was a long overnight wait at Sofia Airport for their early-morning flight to London.

The next day they told me that although their flight had had to make an unscheduled stop at Budapest Airport because another passenger had a medical emergency, they'd got home OK

Posted by 3Traveller 13:19 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged art museum sisters bulgaria veliko_tarnovo han_hadji_nikoli bulgarian_cuisine birthday_celebration Comments (0)

Happy birthday!

Veliko Tarnovo


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After a lie-in and breakfast, we had a really lovely video chat with Mum. During the chat we opened our presents to each other and from Mum - amongst other things, I got some fascinating-looking books which I can't wait to read; Alexander von Humboldt's 'Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Region of the New Continent', a Folio Society copy of Francisco Núñez de Pineda y Bascuñán's 'The Happy Captive', a Hakluyt Society's copy of 'Pieter van den Broeke's Journal of Voyages to Cape Verde, Guinea and Angola, 1605 - 1612', Oliver Rackham's 'The History of the Countryside', Richard Cohen's 'By the Sword' and last but certainly not least, 'Wild Planet', a book of amazing photographs celebrating Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

After that we went out for a walk. The sun was out, but it was due to cloud over later. To make the most of the sun, I took Emma and Kate onto the terrace...

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...and then down Gurko Street;

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Then we popped into my workplace so they could have a look inside it (and print off their boarding cards for their return flight) and walked down the main street, Stefan Stambolov.

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We were all quite hungry by now, so I took them to a café on the craftsmen's street for some lunch. For pudding I had rice pudding and Emma and Kate shared a Diet Frumenty; they'd wanted to try this ever since I'd had it at Christmas.

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Then we did some shopping. My main present to them was something each from the craftsmen's street, within a certain budget. Emma chose an icon of St George and the Dragon and Kate chose some colourful, beautifully painted and glazed cups. I bought myself a sugar pot with two handles, which was also vividly coloured and beautifully painted and glazed. We also stopped at a tiny secondhand bookshop, where Emma bought some books but Kate and I didn't. Nearby the bookshop we found a slightly random giant chair!

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Once we got back to the flat, 'F' came round with a surprise chocolate birthday cake she'd made for us! How lovely of her. We cut it there and then, each having a slice of it with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.

At 5 o'clock I had a Google Video chat with Dave. While I was speaking to him I opened the parcel he'd sent; a box filled with a mixture of books, fancy shampoo, my universal plug adaptor that he'd fixed and an IOU for a hot air balloon trip with him! (This was also from his parents - thank you so much!) To go on a hot air balloon trip is a dream I've had ever since I can first remember.

After a little rest, Emma, Kate and I went out for dinner at Han Hadji Nikoli. We all ended up ordering the same things; tarator to start and then chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in prosciutto, with vegetables and a baked potato with garlic butter and rosemary. We were all too full for dessert!

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From Melodie Bar we all went on to Lino Bar, which has pool tables and electronic darts; the pool tables were all booked up until late, so some of us played darts while others sat down and had more drinks. The last bar we went to was Sammy's, next door. Here I just had a hot chocolate. When we left here the heavens had opened; it was pouring with rain. Instead of getting a taxi, however, we walked/ ran from roof shelter to roof shelter, avoiding the streams of water coming off the roofs or out of pipes, until we reached the flat.

Posted by 3Traveller 22:57 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged parties sisters dave cocktails bulgaria mum veliko_tarnovo han_hadji_nikoli gurko_street extreme_weather birthday_celebration Comments (0)

Arrival in Veliko Tarnovo for Christmas

Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo


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Breakfast at Hostel Mostel was excellent, one of the best hostel breakfasts I've ever had; Bulgarian yoghurt, Bulgarian feta cheese ('cirene'), boiled eggs, olives, salad items, scrambled eggs, sliced apple, sliced kiwi fruit, waffles, jam, chocolate spread, cereal, milk, juice, tea and coffee. After filling ourselves up we had a game of pool on the free pool table, packed up our stuff and asked reception staff to order a taxi to the main bus station for us.

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The time was now about 9.45 am. As soon as we arrived I bought tickets to Veliko Tarnovo, though not as easily as I'd expected. The company I wanted to use, ETAP, had no spaces left on any bus until 2pm, so I checked another company option instead, seeing from their timetable that their next bus to VT was at 11.30 am. They professed to have no tickets whatsoever for any bus to VT, however, so I had to go back to the ETAP desk and buy the 2pm tickets after all.

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So a long wait was ahead of us. Oh well, we'd been in similar situations before on our various travels and knew there was absolutely no point getting stressed out or annoyed about it; a laid-back approach is by far the best to take. So we took ourselves, Dave's big case and my rucksack upstairs to the seating area, made ourselves as comfortable as we could and played a mammoth 10-round game of 10-card rummy, a process which took up nearly an hour. (Dave won.)

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At 12.30 we wandered over to a food counter and had a very leisurely lunch of pizza and (in my case) créme caramel. Then we went down to wait by the bus until the doors opened and we could get on.

The journey was uneventful, though we did see a beautiful sunset. It was completely dark when we arrived in VT. We stopped for a few photos on the way to my flat so we didn't get in until just past 6pm.

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Dave started unpacking and sampled one of the bottles of Bulgarian beer I'd bought for him a few days ago. We also went next door to buy some 1kg tubs of honey from my landlady.

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After about an hour we went out for dinner at Han Hadji Nikoli. We shared an antipasti plate, Dave had a Bulgarian pork grill and I had stuffed chicken breasts, with buttered broccoli as a side. Great quality, as always.

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It had been a long day, so we went straight back to the flat after dinner, finished unpacking and headed for bed.

Posted by 3Traveller 06:18 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged night christmas hostel buses dave sofia bulgaria veliko_tarnovo han_hadji_nikoli bulgarian_cuisine Comments (0)

Mum in Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo


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Monday 27th October

This was our view from the kitchen window first thing this morning :-)

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I was teaching nearly all day, starting at 8 am and finishing at 9 pm, but I had a couple of hours free in the middle of the day, so Mum found her way to my workplace and met me at 12.30. I'd shown her where it was on a map I'd got from the tourist information office. I showed her round the school and then we went to a deli round the corner for some lunch. I had the Bulgarian version of moussaka and Mum had a rice dish which unfortunately turned out to have lots of little chunks of liver in it.

I bought a loaf of bread and some milk on the way out and then we walked past the school and along Gurko Street for a while before rejoining the main street. Gurko Street is filled with Ottoman buildings where the first floor is wider than the ground floor and there are lots of wooden balconies and the roofs have red tiles. Once we got to the main street we looked in some shop windows - some of the shops looked closed because they were in darkness, but when we looked more closely we saw the shopkeeper just sitting at a till or table, looking out at us! Quite peculiar and disconcerting. Then we crossed the road and joined a road nicknamed the 'craftsman's street' - quite touristy now but has been filled with craftsman's shops since the mid-19th century. I left Mum here to explore because I had to go back to work.

I finished at 9.30 pm and arrived back at the flat to some dinner - it was so lovely to have had dinner cooked for me! Mum told me about the shops she'd gone into and showed me an embroidered cloth she'd bought.
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Tuesday 28th October

Today I didn't have a class until 9.45 am, so Mum and I had breakfast together. We started the last jar of Dad's raspberry and redcurrant jam he'd made in 2012; Mum had brought it with her.

I only had that one class today so I came back as soon as it finished at 11.15. We had lunch a bit early. Then I looked in my guidebook and found out that apparently the places I wanted us to go to in Arbanasi would be closed for the winter. We decided to go there anyway, just in case they weren't, but we waited quite a long time for a taxi and eventually we decided just to carry on into Tsarevets Fortress instead.

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The fortress was extremely peaceful because apart from two workers at the main tower, we were the only people in the whole complex for most of our visit.

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The views were fantastic and I took lots of photos.

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I thought how surreal the sight of the snowy hills, trees and buildings looked to me when I could remember so clearly the weather I experienced in Guayaquil a year ago; very hot and humid, the complete opposite to the cold and snow of now.

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On the way back from the fortress we went inside an Orthodox church round the corner from my flat. There were some beautiful icons, but the interior as a whole was very gloomy. The priest followed us around too, which was a little bit offputting.

We rested for a couple of hours on our return, before going out to a restaurant called Han Hadji Nikoli. This is the same place that we teachers got taken out to in my first week in Bulgaria. On that occasion we'd eaten in the courtyard, but now due to the cold we ate inside. A pianist kept us and the other guests entertained throughout, with music in the background.

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To begin with I had tarator and Mum had an appetiser plate.

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Then Mum had trout with almonds and I had a chicken breast wrapped in thin bacon and stuffed with mozzarella. Mum's dish came with some sautéed potatoes and mine came with two small baked potatoes with garlic butter. To finish with Mum had baklava and I had an 'Iced Parfait' with caramelised crushed almonds - it turned out to be a lot like ice cream.

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I tried a bit of Mum's baklava and it was delicious; it was in fact the second-best baklava I've ever had, after the stuff I had at a Turkish café in Auckland. It was much better than any I'd had in the UK. My chicken was really tender and tasty and the tarator was as lovely and refreshing as ever. Mum said that she had really enjoyed her food, too.

Wednesday 29th October

We had breakfast together in the morning because I didn't have a class until 9.30. When that class finished it was 11 and just as I stepped out of the door I saw Mum had just arrived outside. We walked to the fruit & vegetable market down the road and looked round; we bought a big bag of walnuts and two massive quinces for Mum to take back to the UK with her, along with a pomegranite, a punnet of figs, a big bunch of grapes and some pears for more immediate eating.

On our way back we stopped at a CBA supermarket to get some eggs for an omelette that evening, but they didn't have any. Then we stopped at the deli to have some lunch - I had intended to have lunch at the flat, but then I thought I'd run out of time to get there. It was only when we were sitting upstairs eating our lunch that I realised that I actually had an hour longer than I thought! This time I had stuffed aubergine and we shared a little tub of absolutely amazing syrupy sweet things that I couldn't believe I hadn't come across before. They were balls of batter, a lot like the softer version of jalebi batter, with a bit of a bubble inside; they were soaked in syrup.

Because I had longer than I had thought, I walked back to the flat with Mum along Gurko Street. I found the little National Revival house museum that she had tried to find earlier but failed, so that she could go to that once I was back at work. Back at the flat I relaxed for thirty minutes before I had to go back to work.

I finished at 9.30 pm, like on Monday, and like Monday I arrived back to a lovely dinner that Mum had cooked for me :-D She showed me some purchases she had made that afternoon, and told me that the little house museum was amazing.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:28 Archived in Bulgaria Tagged snow market bulgaria mum icons veliko_tarnovo explorations english_teaching fortifications orthodox_church tsarevets_fortress han_hadji_nikoli bulgarian_cuisine gurko_street Comments (0)

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